Characters: Tony, Bruce, daemons
Warnings/Triggers: swearing and coarse language, a touch of angst on Bruce's side
Spoilers: generalized for The Avengers
Pairings: very light reference to Tony/Pepper
Word Count 2,750
Summary: Bruce and Nemi come to play at Stark Tower, and Tony and Mim make sure they feel welcome.
Author's notes: Finally something productive ('productive') comes from all my daemon headcanon. Just some Science Bros friendship fluff.
There is some ambiguity in the HDM verse about whether daemons speak to one another, and not just their humans. I'm exploiting the ambiguity and saying in this 'verse they do.
For reference: Demira (A common tailorbird) and Nemi (a qinling panda)
Takes place post-Avengers, and possibly pre-IM3, but since I haven't seen that yet, I can't be sure. Also, because I haven't seen it yet, or Cap 2, I apologize for any inadvertent conflicts with canon.
“All right, so this is it. Well, not all of it, but a good chunk of it. The coolest part of it. Well, there's actually a level above this that is also cool and—you are not even with me. Where are you?”
Tony paused and turned around. Bruce and Nemi were still in the doorway to the lab. Neither had taken a step in. Mim flew from Tony's shoulder and landed on Nemi's head, hopping up and down, trying to convince her to come along.
“There isn't a forcefield or pass card or anything,” Tony said. “You can just walk through the door. Come on.”
Bruce was basically a skittish kitten, so Tony had had to coax him into Stark Tower with a trail of bread crumbs in the form of lots of cool and neat tech to play with if he came along.
“There's a lot of expensive stuff in here,” Bruce said.
“Yeah, I don't know if you missed the part where I'm a billionaire,” Tony said. “But, news flash, I'm a billionaire. It wasn't going to be a My First Microscope and a Thinkpad. I spent months building this up, and I'm the only one playing with it. You're the first friend I've brought over to play. Come on and play. We'll do our hair and talk about boys.”
Bruce cracked a half smile at that. “I brought down a good chunk of a floating city in a few minutes,” he said. “You really gonna trust me in here?”
“I have unbelievably high premiums on my insurance,” Tony said. “We're covered—even for Enormous Green Rage Monster attacks. Jarvis has Enya on standby to soothe your inner beast if he gets a bit frisky. The only person who's worried is you, and you're, like, always worried, so that doesn't even count. Come on. It'll be fun!”
Nemi leaned over into Bruce's leg and smiled up at him, tipping Mim off her head. Mim darted in front of them, doing some rolls and loops in the air, inviting them in. She landed on a computer station and tweeted to Nemi. Nemi bumped Bruce's leg again and bent over to all fours to pad in, carefully. Bruce followed, looking tentative.
“Whoo! Baby steps,” Tony said. “All right, let's introduce you to the gang. You know Jarvis. Say hi, Jarvis.”
“Hello, Jarvis,” Jarvis said. He played an old Vaudevillian rimshot. Ba-dum-tish.
“He's a prick,” Tony explained. “And that's DUM-E.” DUM-E turned to say hello and knocked Mim off her perch, making Tony's chest feel like he'd been punched in the arc reactor. He crouched to make sure she was okay and then stood again. “He's special, be kind to him. That's Butterfingers and that's U. They're more competent, but we don't love them as much.” Butterfingers lowered his arm and looked sad. “Nah, I'm just kidding. I love all my children equally.”
Bruce had a big grin on his face now, and Nemi was giggling behind one of her paws. She smiled up at Bruce again, and he shrugged his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves.
“So, where do we start?”
“See, it's fun, isn't it fun?” Demira said, dancing around Nemi's feet. “Aren't you having fun?”
Nemi knew the only answer to that would have to be 'yes' or Demira would be trying to make it more fun, and Nemi was concerned where that might lead. She nodded, and Demira perched on her nose. Demira was not a dæmon who understood about personal space. She was right up in everyone's face all the time. Nemi wasn't used to that. Most dæmons gave her a very, very wide berth. She understood why. Demira just seemed to assume everything would be fine, which was both confidence building and stupid. Nemi had more faith in Bruce than anyone, but even she was aware that he was dangerous. She was dangerous. Together, they were deadly. And Tony and Demira didn't seem to mind.
“This is where I get to play,” Demira said, hopping from Nemi's nose to a computer screen inlaid into the table. She walked across it, and it activated, then she danced across it to make various functions come up. “You can use it too, you just have to programme your gestures into it and Jarvis will figure it out.”
“My claws will scratch it,” Nemi said, rising from the floor and pulling herself up to look. “I don't want to break it.”
Demira's tail feathers ruffled in exasperation. “You're obsessed with breaking things!” she said. “Breaking things is the best part! If you don't break things, how do you know how things break? Breaking tells you what you're doing wrong. If you break it, we'll know how to make it so it can be used with claws. You can be our beta. Just come on. Stop being sensible! It's boring!”
Nemi put her paw carefully onto the pad and the computer screen rippled and tried to scan it. She quickly took it off as soon as it started doing something.
“Gesture unrecognized, please try again,” Jarvis said.
“All right, well, baby steps,” Demira said. “Put your left paw in, put your left paw out.” She did the Hokey Pokey and turned herself around, making Nemi laugh. “Come on. Don't be a wimp.”
Nemi put her paw on the computer again and let it be scanned.
“New user recognized, please enter a user name,” Jarvis said.
“What do you want to be called?” Demira said.
“Nemi?” Nemi suggested.
“No, choose something bad ass,” Demira said.
“What name do you go by?” Nemi asked.
“Mim,” Demira said. She stuck her beak in the air. “I didn't say it was a good choice. How about Nemesis? Yeah, that's hardcore.” She hopped about.
“New user Nemesis recognized,” Jarvis said. “Welcome. Please input gestures.”
“Why 'Mim'?” Nemi asked, following the directions on the screen gently. Swipe up, swipe down. Nothing broken yet.
“That's what Tony called me before he could say my name,” Demira explained. “De-mim-ra. His mother thought it was cute, so it sort of stuck.”
“You can call me that, too,” Demira added.
“Can I call you Nemesis?” Demira said.
“No,” Nemi said.
“Okay. Baby steps. Haven't reached the nickname status yet; that's cool,” Demira said. She climbed up onto Nemi's head. “All right. Let's break some shit!”
“I think it's going well, what do you think?” Tony asked.
“We're nailing it,” Mim replied. “We're owning this. Operation Friendship is a total success.”
She hit his finger with her wing in a low five. Low one. Bruce and Nemi were starting to relax and using things without asking instead of staring at them and hoping Tony or Mim would say it was okay. No one had turned into a Rage Monster yet, which was a bit disappointing, but probably something Pepper and Lev would think was good. Lev was such a wet blanket.
“Have you seen his brain?” Tony said, nodding toward Bruce. “It's like a box of awesome in there. Why he hid himself in Calcutta fixing up sniffles is beyond me.”
“He was being hunted by the government and trying not to kill people,” Mim pointed out.
“Okay, yeah, but still,” Tony said. “I'm just saying, it would have been cool if he and I were friends before the whole 'oh no, end of the world' thing.”
“Well, we'll just have to make up for lost time,” Mim said. “Besides, you weren't exactly open to friendships until recently. You used to be an asshole. More of an asshole.”
Tony closed the mouth he was going to object with. “Okay, that's fair,” he admitted.
“Don't live in the past,” Mim said. “Rock the future.”
Tony held out a fist and Mim bumped it with her beak. “Hey, do you wanna beer?” he called to Bruce.
“I don't really drink,” Bruce replied.
“Do you do anything fun?” Tony asked.
“Crosswords,” Bruce said, with a wry smile. “I like crosswords. And green tea.”
“Do you knit, too?” Tony said.
“I tried. It's supposed to be relaxing, but The Other Guy hated dropping stitches,” Bruce said. “Which was a pretty stupid reason to destroy a gas station.”
“You are seriously the coolest uncool person I know,” Tony said. “You sure you don't want a beer? One can't hurt.”
“Tony? No,” Bruce said, firmly.
“Okay,” Tony said, raising his hands in surrender.
Mim had spent 47 years telling Tony Stark 'no' and it had almost never worked. Certainly never on the first try. Bruce Banner was some sort of god.
Mim flew back to Nemi, who was clinging to Bruce like her non-dæmon panda counterparts clung to trees. She was a shy thing; she needed to break out of her shell. Which shouldn't be as hard as it was proving to be, because she was really good at breaking things. Mim wanted her to stop being afraid of that and just go with it, because it could do good as well as bad. Just like anything. It was best to concentrate on the good.
“Everything still cool?” Mim asked. “Need anything?”
“No, I'm good, thanks,” Nemi said. She let go of Bruce's leg and laid down on her stomach to be at a level to talk to Mim. “Bruce is really enjoying the simulation software. He's had these ideas for years, and it's only taken a few hours to prove some of them are viable, and Jarvis is already starting on prototypes. It's amazing.”
“That's what it's here for,” Mim said. “Big giant playground for nerds.” She held up her wing for a high five, but Nemi didn't respond. Mim swatted her nose to show her how it worked for next time. “So, everything's cool?”
“Everything's cool,” Nemi said.
Mim held up her wing again, and, though Nemi left her hanging for an awkward amount of time, she eventually bumped her nose to it.
Operation Friendship was definitely a success.
“I like it here,” Nemi said.
Bruce glanced down at her with a smile. She was hugging his leg, as she often did. She'd started doing it after the lab accident, as though she were trying to physically hold him down and prevent him from turning into the Other Guy. It was pretty amazing that Demira had convinced her to walk away from him for a while. Usually, she kept to herself.
“Yeah, well, don't get used to it,” Bruce said. “It's only been a few hours. I haven't had time to mess it up yet.”
She hugged his leg tighter. “Don't be so negative,” she said. “Maybe you won't this time. It's different. You don't have to run anymore. You have back up. People care.”
Bruce shrugged. “I've messed up every relationship I've ever had,” he said. “That's not negativity, Nem, that's a correlation based on sound data. You could graph that.”
“It's different,” Nemi repeated. “They want you here. Tony wants you here. He invited you. Just relax and have fun.”
“I'll enjoy it while it lasts,” Bruce said, grudgingly. “How about that?”
Nemi rubbed her face into his thigh. “It's a start."
“So, do you wanna see your digs?” Tony asked, circling behind Bruce with a clap to the back.
“My what?” Bruce said.
“Your apartment,” Tony said. “I told you, I made you an apartment. I made everyone an apartment.”
“I thought you were being facetious,” Bruce said.
"Admittedly, 99% of the time I'm being facetious, but in this case, I am as unfacetious as is possible," Tony assured him. "It's a few floors up from here. I thought you'd like to be near the labs.”
Bruce realized he was serious. “You want me to live here?”
“Why, is it too soon in our relationship to ask you to move in?” Tony said, making an 'uh-oh' face. “I won't tell you that I've already named our future children, then. Do you like the name Antonia? Because I'm open to suggestions. Mim thinks Zeus is nice for the dæmon.”
Bruce huffed a laugh. “I prefer to take things slow."
“Well, hey, I bought you dinner,” Tony said, gesturing to the remnants of pizza scattered around the labs. “You can't say I'm a cheap date.”
“Let's go back to the part where I have an apartment,” Bruce said, holding up a hand to stop Tony's teasing.
“Right,” Tony said. “Well, I figured, we're a team now, right? So, teams usually hang out, and I have this big tower thing here, so, why not make it headquarters? Obviously, we're all going to go on superheroing on our own, or in pairs, or whatever, but if anyone's in New York, they can drop in and the place is all ready for them. Safehouse, living space, whatever. Just a place to go if you need it. Jarvis knows you, he'll let you in.”
“You're serious,” Bruce said.
“Yeah,” Tony said. “You don't know me that well, but this is my serious face. It looks like all my other faces, so you'll sort of get the hang of figuring it out. Come on, I'll show you.”
He headed out of the lab. Bruce looked down to Nemi, who shrugged. They followed Tony out to the elevators.
“Okay, so this is your button,” Tony said, pointing to one marked with a DNA strand. Bruce could pick out the other team members' buttons—Thor's Hammer, Natasha's belt, Clint's bow, Steve's shield, and Tony's helmet. “There's a billion floors in this place, so easier to find if you're drunk or exhausted or whatever. Just press it and away we go.”
Nemi didn't like enclosed spaces; she clung a little closer to Bruce's leg as the doors closed and the elevator jerked. The doors opened again onto a hall, with a big door at the end.
“You can put your own security code in,” Tony said. “It's defaulted to 12345 for now.” He strode down the hall and entered the number into the keypad.
“Welcome home, Dr. Banner,” Jarvis said, when the doors opened.
Bruce was ushered in ahead of Tony, though Demira did a few barrel rolls ahead of them to show the room off.
“All right, Pepper did the interior design, so blame her for anything you don't like,” Tony said. “She went for 'soothing' colors. You have a double floor, so if your heart rate gets to Hulk levels, the ceiling will open and you can change without busting your head. The floor's reinforced and all the windows are as unbreakable as I can make them. Furniture not so much, but it can all be replaced, so don't worry about smashing it. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living area, office area...guest bedroom if you want to bring a friend...I think that's it. I say that like it's not awesome, but, obviously, it is.”
Bruce and Nemi walked around, gaping. For someone who had lived in hovels, caves, and military facilities for the past several years, this was a palace of epic proportions. King-sized bed, a Jacuzzi bathtub, a full gourmet kitchen. Half the place was windows. There were screens in every area, all of which were currently displaying a welcome message.
“I like it here,” Nemi said, snuggling into his leg.
He dropped his hand to her head. “Yeah,” he said. “Me too.”
Demira landed on the kitchen counter and arranged her wings like Vanna White to show off the granite. Tony hopped up to sit next to her, kicking his legs back and forth.
“So, what do you say?” Tony said. “Think you'll stick around? You can change anything you don't like.”
Making commitments made Bruce nervous. “I'll stay for a bit."
Tony held up his hands. “No pressure,” he said. “But it's here if you want it. I won't be around to bug you all the time—I have boring running a company shit to do—but you can hang out here for as long as you want or don't want. You do get that, right? You can do whatever you want. You're not a government toy. It's all open doors here.”
“Open door is a bit of a weird concept, still,” Bruce said, rubbing his hands together.
“Well, baby steps,” Tony said.
Nemi wandered over to the counter, and Demira hopped onto her head, poking her ear. Nemi swatted her off, laughing. Bruce smiled and sat down on a stool by the counter.
Baby steps. He could handle that.